Kids and adults diagnosed with ASD possess numerous strengths, however, they lack an intuitive social ability. This inhibits them from managing everyday activities as well as skills that would support them for the rest of their lives. Additionally, communication and interaction deficits can exacerbate the issue.
According to a blog on The Mighty, in a recent study, researchers used a fMRI machine to study the regions of the brain that are representative of a person’s social abilities. It was found that people with ASD who attended a five-week social skills camp (one hour, twice a week) showed significant improvement. During this process the individuals learned empathy, initiating play, and emotional recognition, which helped reduce anxiety and form friendships.
Not surprisingly many parents want this for their young ones so they can thrive in social situations. Opya listened recognized this gap and enhanced our service offerings by running our first Social Skills Group this summer; inspired by the renowned Michelle Garcia’s, Social Thinking™. It took a lot of passion and expertise to come together as a team and design and execute an evidence-based program to help our clients expand their social skills by providing them with a safe environment to practice, learn, and be understood. The goals of the program were to facilitate and improve:
- Communication cognitive and language skills
- Navigate through group/social settings
- Peer interaction and play initiation
- Listener response and group participation
Over the course of 8-weeks, the Opya leadership team and therapists, designed, supervised and facilitated the Social Skills Group at our San Mateo location. Opya’s Social Skills Groups consists of kids and young adults with and without an ASD diagnosis between the ages of 5-17. The curricula groups are designed, supervised, and led by BCBAs, supported by Masters level supervisors, occupational & speech therapists. Additionally, a one-to-one behavior therapist is provided for most clients as well. Our team actively worked on helping our clients improve their social skills by:
- Grouping the participants appropriately
- Implementing goal-based, and engaging, activities on subjects ranging from art, science, to music.
- Providing 1:1 support to help model & practice the subtle yet important aspects of communication and rules for interaction
- Reinforcing behaviors that predict important social outcomes like love and happiness
In doing so the participants had a chance to practice their newly acquired social skills, and hone them in a friendly, engaging, and team-based environment.
The results were outstanding! Not only did they see a direct implementation of the skills in the groups, but parents also reported that their children were able to apply what they learned in social and family gatherings. While the feedback Opya received from parents was extremely positive, the most exciting part of the program was when group members starting to form friendships and set up playdates outside the program. This was a complete 180 from the first day where the kids were reluctant to engage and interact with one another.
The results spoke for themselves. The success was overwhelming. The program truly bridged the gap between the treatment and the ability to generalize what they learned in other social and school settings.
The success of this program inspired us to make the Social Skills Group a regular part of our curriculum. It’s a four-month-long program, once a week, that is offered at our San Mateo & Santa Clara locations starting in September 2018. Please come join us! If you are interested, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.